Did you know? October marks the birthday of the longest-living, continually operating Jewish service organization in the world. Founded as the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith (Children of the Covenant) in October 1843, B’nai B’rith International is now 170 years young.

Ever-changing with the times, ever-growing in response to community needs, B’nai B’rith always has been a grassroots organization—making a positive difference. B’nai B’rith’s history in Michigan goes back to the formation of the Pisgah Lodge in 1857. Pisgah was B’nai B’rith’s 34th lodge in the United States. Since then, thousands of Jews from generation to generation have been members of B’nai B’rith, helping communities worldwide.

The Great Lakes Region covers Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Toledo, Ohio. Most of the current activity, however, is centered in the Metro-Detroit area, home to active units and lodges, sports leagues, as well as programs and projects conceived in the regional office.

Taking the initiative for Michigan students entering college

At a recent meeting of its newly elected board, B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region launched its first College Scholarship Program, slated as a new “signature program” to help support Michigan students entering their freshman year in college. Describing the critical need for the program, board member and chair of the initiative, Rick Sherline observed, “Drawing from the roots of our organization, we believe that our initiative to build a local foundation for college scholarships would have an enduring impact on our region. Our decision was unanimous and far-reaching, because the need is universal; it’s imperative that we support students and families now facing the high cost of a college education.”

Starting in January, the B’nai B’rith College Scholarship Program will grant scholarships of $2,500 each to three worthy freshmen entering the college or university of their choice. Additionally, smaller grants may be awarded to students in the final running of the selection process. Recipients of the scholarships are not required to attend Michigan schools, but will be selected based on some criteria of their community involvement. Beneficiaries of the scholarships will also be empowered to serve as ambassadors for the program, through social media and their participation at B’nai B’rith events.

Building community through scholarships

With her focus on young adult community outreach for the Federation, NEXTGen Associate, Rachel Taubman is uniquely qualified to serve as a member of the B’nai B’rith scholarship selection committee. “The ultimate goal of the program and the fund is to build community,” she commented, “and to foster in young adults the desire to use the gifts of their education in order to give back to the community.” Rachel serves on the committee with Steven Kaplan, Arline Bittker, Robert Stoller, Linda Lee and Kelly Saperstein.

David Lubin who co-chairs the Scholarship Committee along with Sid Roth, indicated that numerous like-minded individuals in the community have come together to support the project. “We are currently seeking sponsorships as well as large endowments to launch the program and sustain it on an even greater scale in the future.”

First Fundraiser: In Concert with Ethan Bortnick

Community fundraising for the B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region’s Scholarship Program kicks off on Saturday, October 5, with young pianist, Ethan Bortnick in concert at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts. “Ethan looks like a maestro in miniature on stage, but in life, he’s a 13-year-old with the biggest heart,” Sherline said, “When Ethan and his dad found out that we were interested in using his performance as a fundraiser for scholarships, they were behind it 100%, along with the JCC, the Berman Center and a host of other individuals and corporations. We look forward to a high level of cooperation within our community to make this initiative a long-term success story.

Ethan Bortnick in Concert, coming to the Berman Center for Performing Arts

Ethan Bortnick in Concert, coming to the Berman Center for the Performing Arts

About Ethan: At three years old, he began playing the piano. An astonishing young talent, at five, he started composing music. When he was nine, Ethan Bortnick became the youngest artist to have his own national PBS special, and at 10, he was the youngest artist to headline a national tour. Now, at 13, Ethan is kicking off a tour of Jewish Community Centers through the U.S., starting at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets are $42 in the lower level and $32 in the upper level and can be purchased by visiting theberman.org or calling the Berman box office at 248-661-1900. For VIP seating, a Meet and Greet reception with the artist, and sponsorship opportunities, please call David Lubin at 248-252-2606.

Save the date and plan to join the B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region on Sunday, October 13, at noon, in celebration of B’nai B’rith’s 170th Anniversary. For more information, please visit online: B’nai B’rith Great Lakes

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